The Amazon. The largest tropical rain forest in the world, famous for its incredible biodiversity. Containing over half the planets remaining rain forest, a staggering 1 in 10 known species on our planet resides here. This means that the Amazon is home to the single largest collection of flora and fauna on Earth.
Though most of the Amazon is located in Brazil (60%), it’s edges reach a total of 9 South American nations. Peru contains the second largest coverage area at 13% and can be found in Peru’s north and eastern regions. While Peru’s main attraction is the impressive Machu Picchu, making the journey into the Peruvian Amazon is an experience not to be missed.
No need to worry about getting bored in a place like the Amazon. There is so much to explore and so many experiences to have! During my short 5 day visit to the Amazon I couldn’t believe how much there was so see and do. Here are my top 12 experiences to have while visiting the Peruvian Amazon.
1. Go for A Jungle Trek
By far the most popular and most common activity in the Amazon jungle, trekking through the rain forest is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are so many different areas in the rain forest to explore too, so no 2 treks will be the same. There’s the low lying rain forest that is flooded annually during the rainy season. Exploring the rain forest at higher elevation is much different with thicker vegetation. Different species of flora and fauna can be found in each region making for a varied experience.
2. Search For Sloths
This can be done both by boat and by trekking through the jungle. If searching by boat it’s best to head down a smaller tributary off the Amazon so you can glide closer to the shore line. Keep you’re eyes high in the tree canopy’s to spot these well camouflaged animals as they slowly forage for their favorite leaves. SIDE NOTE: Many of the sloths favorite leaves come from trees that are known to for their psychedelic properties. My guide Carlos pointed out that this is the reason sloths are so slow: they are always high!
3. Visit A Local Village
One of the highlights of my time in the Amazon was visiting traditional local villages and having a peek into their daily lives. So far removed from modern civilization, everything from their houses to way of living is unique to their survival in the Amazon.
4. Try The Local Food
One thing I loved about the Amazon was the food and how fresh it is! Most nights dinner included freshly caught fish from the Amazon River, fried plantains grown in a near-by field and rice that was harvested from the river banks of the Amazon. For breakfast I couldn’t get enough of the fresh fruit!
5. Watch an Amazon Sunset
The Amazon is very flat and therefore, big sky country. Watching the sunset, especially if there are storm clouds moving in, is simply spectacular.
The colors are varied depending on cloud cover. I found sunsets are best viewed from a boat while floating along the Amazon or one of the giant sand bars that can be found in the middle of the Amazon River.
6. Go on A Night Walk
A trip to the Amazon wouldn’t be complete without a night stroll in the jungle. But fear not, you don’t need to venture far from your lodge! No matter which lodge you stay at you’re still in the middle of the Amazon. Critters don’t pay much attention to human boundaries so you can bet you’ll find monkeys, frogs, birds, spiders and a plethora of other animals and insects that only come out at night. During my night walk we spotted a pygmy owl with a freshly caught (and dead) frog hanging from his beak!
7. Bird Watching
With 1 in 5 of all birds on Earth found in the Amazon, it’s not a matter of IF you’ll see any but rather how many different species you’ll spot. From vultures to kingfishers, large hawks to little sand pipers, birds are literally everywhere in the Amazon. The brightly colored birds of paradise are such a beautiful site to see. The most unique bird I saw was the prehistoric looking Hoatzin, who actually have claws on their wings as babies. There are some very unique birds residing in the Amazon!
8. Learn About Medicinal Plants
There are so many incredible and life-saving medicinal plants that can only be found in the Amazon. It’s estimated that 25% of western pharmaceuticals come from rain forest plants. But with so many species of flora and fauna in the Amazon, there are still thousands that have gone undiscovered.
Many believe that the rain forest holds the key to curing many diseases such as Cancer and AIDS but with the destruction of the rain forest, many of these miracle drugs are destroyed before ever being discovered. Local guides usually know a thing or two about medicinal plants in the Amazon so be sure to ask during your jungle treks.
9. Jungle Survival Skills
Another activity for jungle trekking is learning how to survive in the Amazon. The first thing my guide Carlos told me upon entering the Amazon was that “everything in the jungle is trying to kill you.” Given that the trees in the Amazon grow spikes and nearly everything is poisonous, I’d have to agree! Learning what is and isn’t safe to eat or touch and how to actually survive overnight will greatly add to your understanding of the jungle.
10. Paddle a Traditional Dugout Canoe
Definitely an authentic experience for the Amazon! Paddling a traditional dugout canoe was one of the highlights of my trip to the rain forest. As an avid canoeist at home, I wanted to experience paddling a canoe made completely by hand. These canoes are low lying and very tipsy but it gives you an appreciation for the talent needed to fish from them. Canoes are used as one of the main modes of transportation in the Amazon and you’ll definitely come across them during your time here.
11. Fish For Piranha’s
A trip to the Amazon wouldn’t be complete without fishing for piranha’s! These little guys can be found down the smaller tributaries off the Amazon and you don’t need any experience fishing or fancy gear. There is some technique involved but once you’ve mastered it you’ll be catching them quickly. Be sure to have your guide handle them due to their razor sharp teeth.
12. Swim With Pink Dolphins
Pink Dolphins are one of only 4 species of fresh water dolphins found in the world and are only found in the waters of the Amazon River. Made pink by their diet (much the same way flamingos are pink) they are curious animals.
We found a pod of them in a small, sheltered bay in the middle of the Amazon River. With the encouragement of my guide, I jumped right in! The dolphins were busy hunting a school of fish but that didn’t stop them from giving a few shy looks. They only came within 20 or so yards of us but it was still incredible to be swimming in their pool!
The Peruvian Amazon is such an incredible place for adventures. There is so much to see and do that it would take years to explore everything. It’s always a matter of what to do with limited time and I found these experiences gave me a well rounded look into life in the Amazon rain forest. If you’re after a truly unique, one-of-a-kind experience, look no further than than the Peruvian Amazon!